Meeting Yourself Where You’re At

Financial Boot Camp for 20-Somethings: Day 2 of 5

It’s time to get your money in order.

We want to meet you wherever you are.

If you’re already in the work force, we have you covered. Still in school? We can help. Looking for work? We’ve got some ideas.

But no matter what situation you’re in, here’s the most important piece of advice: Ask for help. Nobody — and we mean, no one — is born or finishes school or enters the job market knowing about all of this money stuff. You’re not alone in your confusion, and there is no shame in raising your hand and asking a question (or 20).

People with a bit more experience than you have learned a few things, often the hard way. So ask a colleague for help. Find an older student or a school administrator who has worked the systems that you are just starting to navigate. Wait in line at the unemployment office or on hold on the phone and keep asking for clarification until you get a response in plain language. Or ask us, and we might be able to answer your question in a future newsletter.

None of us are as smart as all of us, and we’re all in this together.

If You’re Already Working

Your salary is your salary, at least for now. You’ll want to ask for a raise every so often, and you’ll want to keep a file of things that have gone well at work — and things that a supervisor has asked you to do better that you’ve acted on successfully. This will make it easier to ask for a raise, something my colleague, Tara Siegel Bernard, has written about in the past.

If you’re evaluating a new job offer, remember that your compensation does not equal your salary alone. Compare vacation time (every additional paid day off is like getting a raise right then and there), health insurance plans (say, the size of the premiums and deductibles) and other benefits. Salary and vacation time are the pieces you can often negotiate.

The world of employee benefits is probably new to you, and there isn’t always someone around to patiently teach you what they are and how they work. (I wrote a guide in 2008 that holds up pretty well.) Quite often, however, these benefits are worth thousands of dollars.

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